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The Rookie’s Guide to Food and Wine Pairings

For those who are less than wine connoisseurs, figuring out how to pair wine with food can seem intimidating. And with a wider range of local wines now readily available in most places, the choices are proportionately harder. Somehow, the old rule of pairing red meat with red wine and serving white wine with poultry and fish does not always seem right given the various flavors and spices from various ethnic cuisines.

We want to make it clear that food and wine pairings are not really bound by rules—it more for of an art than an exact science. In fact, food and wine pairings are highly subjective, so the best judge of pairing success is ultimately you. In this article, we share some guidelines and tricks for food and wine pairings, just to give you an overview of pairing conventions. If, at any given time, your palate and these conventions are in conflict, trust your palate’s judgment every time.

Wine is a sophisticated condiment

The first thing that you need to understand when pairing food and wine is that the purpose of the wine is to enhance the flavor of the food, not overpower with. Think of how certain condiments complement certain flavors. For instance, you can choose to eat fries with ketchup, mayo, or a cheese dip. Each combination will result in a different gastronomic experience.  By the same vein, your wine can subtly alter the taste of a dish. A sweet wine can bring out a certain contrast with a sour dish like chicken cooked in garlic. On the other hand, a dry wine could make the garlic flavor sharper, more pungent.

Match the flavor intensities

A good pairing of food and wine is well-balanced, meaning that neither one overpowers the other. This is one reason why white wine is paired with lighter flavors like that of poultry and fish while red wines, which are more full-bodied, are served with red meats that have a more robust flavor.

However, you don’t always have to drink red wine with red meats, nor white with fish and poultry. You can try serving a light red wine with fish and still come up with a good combination.

Serve the more delicate wines before the full-bodied ones

If more than one kind of wine is to be served during an entire meal, it is generally recommended that you serve the more delicately-flavored wines first before the full-bodied ones. This is so that your palate can better appreciate the subtleties of a delicate wine before being bombarded with a robust one. Have you ever noticed that after eating something more intensely flavored, your tongue will have less sensitivity to the same flavor, like somehow a piece of fruit will not taste that sweet if you have eaten a piece of candy first? The same principle applies here.

The body of a wine depends on its alcohol content, the higher the alcohol content, the more full-bodied a wine becomes. On the other hand, the term “dry” wine refers to the lack of sweetness.

Got a special food and wine pairing recipe? Share with us in the comment section below.

The author is a professional food & wine expert. Share your thoughts with him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. You can also contact him by sending a fax online

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